CD Glin is Vice President of PepsiCo Foundation and Global Head of Philanthropy at PepsiCo Inc.
Crises are part of life. We often think of them as negative events that we must endure, but crises also present opportunities for growth and change. Corporate foundations are often looking for ways to mobilize staff who live and work in affected communities to co-create solutions for their immediate needs. Doing so creates an opportunity to come together as a team while using the team’s skills to make a positive impact. Crises aren’t good—but they’re opportunities to do good.
Between the pandemic, a looming recession and other events plaguing the global community, companies are recognizing how crucial it is to be responsive in new ways that are relevant—both locally and in real time. Many learned the benefits of staying agile in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the racial reckoning that was sparked in Minneapolis before spreading around the world. While each event brought systemic challenges, I found that they also impacted local communities in unique ways.
These events helped evolve our company’s framework for an integrated approach to philanthropic work to be more responsive to the needs of the communities in which we operate and where our people live and work. It also brought clarity to our philanthropic approach, which aims to build a more sustainable future for people and the planet. We narrowed our focus, identifying that our approach would need to match the following expectations:
1. Be community-driven and community-centric.
The pandemic altered philanthropy for us and many other organizations. Today, we have staff on the ground in many countries around the world; they understand the local market and what is most relevant to their needs. This proximity allows us to measure the true impact of our work, driving our focus.
The crises we all faced taught us valuable lessons, and we made the strategic decision to evolve our approach. I’ve found that listening to local colleagues and meeting them where they are—literally and figuratively—is an impactful piece of the puzzle. Each community has its own unique needs. By engaging with workers who are in those regions, leaders can have an improved understanding of how to make an impact.
Then, it’s crucial to evolve to working with and through communities instead of doing things for them. By leveraging an understanding of a community’s specific needs, foundations can continue to serve these communities in tangible ways using a social-impact mindset. This can strengthen your local and lasting responses to the community. Aim to be the catalyst of change.
2. Be collaborative.
Many companies’ relationships with grant beneficiaries are largely transactional. If a beneficiary meets the criteria, they receive a check, but there isn’t always a deep focus on the true impact of the investment. I’ve found long-term impact is required to drive true social impact and change. This means trusting carefully selected organizations to use funds in ways that benefit the communities they serve.
In doing so, you can elevate your strategic and data-driven relationships. Seek to collaborate in ways that allow you to co-create solutions for the complex issues affecting communities.
Rather than spearheading solutions, offer opportunities for community members to lead, simply because they are the most knowledgeable about barriers to access. Corporate foundations can contribute to global perspectives and resources while empowering local actors. Set a goal to do the most good for the most people in the communities where you operate.
By shifting to a shared-value, collaborative partnering approach, leaders can create a philanthropic ecosystem that invites anyone who shares their goals—including business competitors—to join the effort. As challenges become more complex and multifaceted, strategic relationships around community and social impact become increasingly important.
I think everyone seeking to be a changemaker has a responsibility to catalyze others into action. Your unique capabilities allow you to be proactive in addressing the pressing problems and challenges in areas of your business and philanthropic expertise. In our case, these challenges include food insecurity, lack of access to safe water and economic inequity. We need to use our capabilities while inspiring others into collective action.
The challenges of the last few years have offered an opportunity to gain a richer understanding of the ways leaders can align their philanthropic efforts with what the business does best. While a business may generate positive outcomes in communities, philanthropic agendas can challenge the entire company to cultivate prosperity for those who have historically been left behind, underserved and/or excluded.
But leaders can’t do this alone. I’ve found that we must align with the efforts of others—whether they be public/private, civil society actors or organizations. Aim to be known as an organization that catalyzes others and brings them along in your shared commitment to do the work that matters. We are stronger together.
Look back, but move forward.
Corporate foundations are not financial partners alone. They must be willing to go the extra mile, providing know-how, material resources and co-created solutions that respond to their beneficiaries’ needs while yielding tangible results.
Following the community’s lead in specific projects and creating philanthropic models that other businesses can follow are important practices to implement. The private sector has shown it can come together to be a collective force for good. Applying this unforgettable lesson from the pandemic to collaborate in future philanthropic efforts will allow corporate foundations to have the greatest social impact.
I think it’s time to be responsive to the immediate needs of underserved and marginalized populations in the communities where we live, work, play and serve. These global crises have brought about strategic clarity in our philanthropic efforts by making us community-centric, collaborative and catalytic in our approach and efforts. With renewed awareness and commitment brought about by crises, corporate foundations can make a positive and lasting community impact alongside engaged employees who give their time, talent and treasure to address challenges both globally and locally.
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